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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 11:10 GMT

World: Africa

Ivory Coast opposition leaders jailed

The charges related to recent opposition protests

A court in Ivory Coast has handed down jail terms of up to two years on most of the defendants at a trial of opposition leaders accused of public order offences committed by their supporters.

At least 11 leading members of the Republican Rally party - including the deputy leader, Henriette Diabate, and four members of parliament - were sentenced to two years in prison.

Security was tight around the commercial capital, Abidjan, for the verdict amid fears of opposition protests.

Political trial

[ image: Alassane Ouattara: Barred from candidature]
Alassane Ouattara: Barred from candidature
Our West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle says the trial was essentially a political one, and government and the opposition remain far apart over the issue which led to the police crackdown on the opposition in the first place.

The opposition demonstration last month, which was accompanied by violent unrest, was called to protest about bias in the state-controlled media against the opposition's presidential candidate, Alassane Ouattara, who is currently outside the country.

The government argues that Mr Ouattara is ineligible to stand in next year's presidential elections because on the grounds that he is not Ivorian, and has accused him of falsifying his Ivorian identity.

Mr Ouattara, a former prime minister of Ivory Coast and a wealthy international banker, insists he is an Ivorian citizen and denies he falsified his papers.

The US state department called the trial an attempt to stifle democracy in Ivory Coast.

The ruling party in France - the former colonial power which remains influential in Ivory Coast - has also condemned the moves against the opposition.

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